Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Goodbye Roy Halladay

We all know that the man was brilliant on the mound for most of his career. He was always 1st or 2nd to arrive at the ballpark. He ran at CBP when the Winter Classic was being set up. Perfect game. Playoff no-hitter. Dominant from '01-'11 with a Cy Young award in each league, a 2.98 ERA and 175 wins. He was a philanthropist and put his heart into it. Perfect season as head coach of his kid's baseball team. The list goes on and on. Thank you for the memories, Roy! Rest in peace.

Harry Leroy Halladay III - 1977-2017

Early Nov Offseason Update: Keepler, Roster

The Phillies spent a month and two rounds of interviews, hiring former Dodgers' Director of Player Development Gabe Kepler as manager of the next great Phillies era. He's a Chip Kelly type - sports science - but remember that Chip took a team that went 8-8 & 4-12 in back-to-back seasons into two-consecutive 10-6 seasons. It was his moves as "GM" that ruined it for him in Philly. Kepler is not my first choice, even for an outsider - decent player, not much success as a manager in A and no recent dugout experience. But when a team spends a month deciding, that tells you something. I think he won't hamper our players' development but is Kepler going to be able to win postseason series? I don't know. I'll give him 3 yrs. One thing is for sure, this is Klentak's decision and any blame will rest on his shoulders: his manager, his free agents.

Who will his coaches be? We've seen some unconventional names out there - Raul Ibanez (2009-2011) for instance. I think that Walthan will be on the staff and perhaps all current Phillies coaches except McClure for at least the 2018 season. There are two or three openings and possibly more - we saw the Phillies didn't have to double up when they had two hitting coaches and split Mick Billmeyer's duties a few years back. I think he'll bring in 3-4 to mingle with Walthan, Samuel, Morandini and I think Kranitz will become pitching coach.

Roster

Needs: Phillies will not spend yet but a big splash is possible - McPhail had said ownership wants us to explore every possibility, even a big signing or trade. However, we need two starting pitchers, a veteran for the 'pen (middle-late relief) and bench spots - particularly outfield depth. A trade or two of two or three of our infielders (Joseph, Franco, Galvis, Hernandez) or even some of our prospects (Quinn, Cozens) is the best way to go.

Current 40-Man: We have about a week to the pre-Rule-5-draft deadline and we're at ~41 after clearing out the 60-Day DL and free agents. We need to drop about 5 if we want to protect. I doubt we'll be able to do that. The only way we'll clear spots is if we can trade and the GM meetings could result in that but I wouldn't bet on anything major there, just early rapport amongst GMs and Free Agent players' agents.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

2017 Review: Coaches

With MacKanin's "status change", let's discuss the coaching staff. They have been advised to seek positions elsewhere but I am sure we won't see 100% turnover.

Bench Coach: Larry Bowa is 99.99% out of the dugout but the career Phillie (player, coach, manager), like MacKanin, is going to remain in the organization. He earned it: loyalty during transition years and the transitions seemed pretty seamless from my perspective.

I said that Dusty Walthan would be a good manager but I do value big league coaching experience on a resume before becoming a big league manager to ease his transition and to judge his strategy. He has everything on his resume but he only coached in the bigs during the times the games don't count: Spring Training and Sept. call-up, in which the Phillies were out of contention. Knowing the kids makes him the ideal right-hand man to a new manager, one that will likely come from outside the organization. And yes, it is hard to judge strategy for a bench coach but there will be enough evidence should another change be needed. Unfortunately, this would be Dusty's only opportunity, except if the new manager is on a short (~3 yr) leash.

Pitching Coaches: My guess is that MacKanin wanted to keep McClure, which makes it a factor in Klentak's decision to move Pete out of the dugout. A coach should, in my humble opinion, get 90% out of his players 90% of the time (that's an A/A-). McClure was not successful this year (Vinny: "I'm lost") and we require outside help for the 'pen and especially the starters. The bullpen was up-and-down (Benoit: "we need roles") but given the overall success, especially late, and the short tenure, I think no change is needed in the 'pen.

Corner infield coaches: Samuel is doing well but starting to loose touch. Morandini is also loosing touch (baserunning weak) so a switch (Samuel was a 1B coach) would work. Let's see if they can have better success stealing & scoring with a switch.

Hitting Coach - Matt Stairs: He succeeded and intervened when necessary and exceeded the 90-90 standard I mentioned. Only Maikel Franco didn't take to Stairs and you could argue that Rupp & Joseph took a step back. Also, we have trade bait in the infield now. It would behoove the next manager to keep Matt Stairs given the emergence of the hitters and that Matt just completed his first year as hitting coach.

Other Coaches: Catching, per MacPhail the other day, needs work. Rupp is probably gone but it'll be up to a free agent and the coach to teach Alfaro & Knapp how to frame and call pitches. I'm not sure if the Phillies can split like they did a few years ago with Billmeyer, but if they can, I think the new manager should bring someone in.

Great end-of-year for the Phillies makes for easy decisions by the new manager during a transition year from the basement ('13-'17) to near-.500 in 2018: Walthan for bench coach, keep Stairs, Kranitz ('pen) and the infield coaches (except switch spots), and hire a new catching coach & pitching coach. 2018 performances will tell a lot about the coaches and some more change might be needed as a result. I'll continue with some more offseason stuff as it progresses. Have a great rest of the week!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

My Reaction to Pete MacKanin's Status Change

It is hard to call it a promotion or a demotion. I don't like to call it a firing. He is rewarded for his work by staying with the organization. He wanted to stay on as manager though, and in all fairness, he deserved to stay. What this tells me is the Klentak had likely predetermined Pete's fate. It's likely no one would have taken the job though. I'm sure others will be interested if asked to interview.

Pete's job:

Overall, the record is abysmal (.433 record) but that's primarily due to lack of talent on the roster the last few years. Upon taking the job after Sandberg's resignation, it was clear that Pete was a stellar communicator, which mattered more than wins and losses due to a few beloved yet declining Phillies on the roster. And under MacKanin, the Phillies went .500 since the All-Star Break as the young prospects debuted. He's made mistakes and questionable decisions, but what manager doesn't? I'd give him a B+/A-.

Klentak:

It is very poor timing (and so was the extension but I'd have extended him in Spring anyway). I think any manager that has low talent should be given the opportunity to work with better talent. From what I've seen, Pete seemed capable of winning within two years. Now, it's up to you to prove that he wasn't and to be classy about Pete. So far, you're not too classy. For this incident, you get a D.

Evaluating Klentak's moves:

So far, most of your signings haven't worked out. But the kids got an opportunity and that's all that matters. In fact, the kids are taking advantage! What you said two weeks ago and your plan for the off-season is sound. But will you change your approach to the rebuild? Will you start bringing in better players to fill the gaps (bench, bullpen, a few rotation spots)? The Cubs are a great example: homegrown hitting, outside pitching. That seems to be the need here. Also, I think McClure needs to go but that's a decision made after picking a manager. Good luck in the search, but I'm sure someone will want the job - the wild card is possible next year! Grade: B-

Oh yes, my pick for 2018 manager is AAA Manager Dusty Walthan. He knows the kids well!

Monday, September 25, 2017

2017-2018 Offseason

In this post, I project the Opening Day Roster and some of the names on the pre-Rule-5  40-man roster.

Dropped from 40-Man (initially) - double star is 60-day DL (not on 40-man currently):
  • P Appel (non-tender)
  • P Buchholtz** (F.A.)
  • IF Alvarez
  • IF Blanco (F.A.)- might return
  • OF Kim (F.A./ release) - aqrd in July trade deadline
  • OF Florimon (?)**
  • OF Daniel Nava** (F.A.?)
Current 60-Day DL:
  • P Velasquez
  • P Therrien
  • P Eflin
  • P Eichkoff
Four dropped from 40-man and four need to be added. Not looking good for players in the minors. I'll say that 3-4 more players will be dropped due to a miss on my part or for the sake of adding 2-3 prospects to protect from the 40-man. Aschelman is one I think and Kingery is not since he's got one more season to qualify for the 40-man, I think. He'll be on the 40-man in July. I think Pivetta is on the 40-man but starts in AAA and one of Morgan or Garcia could be the odd men out as good as they've been this year. Bench player Ty Kelly and AAA OF D. Cozens (lack of plate discipline) are also probably out.

Catchers:
  • Possible Free Agent or Cameron Rupp
  • Jorge Alfaro
  • Andrew Knapp
Line-Up (defensive order):
  1. Pitcher
  2. Catcher
  3. 1B Joseph
  4. 2B Hernandez
  5. 3B Crawford
  6. SS Galvis
  7. LF Hoskins
  8. CF Herrera
  9. RF Altherr
Bench:
  • OF Williams
  • IF Franco
Considerations:

The offense is set including Kingery coming up mid-year and shuffling around defensively is easy since most players can play at least 2 positions.

It seems inevitable based on the crowded infield (even in Mar/ Apr), crowded 40-man and pitching needs that Franco, Joseph, Galvis and Hernandez are actively shopped. I'll be bold here and say that two of them are gone. Joseph will probably be shopped the most (Hoskins moves to 1B and allows Williams to be in the OF) followed closely by Franco (last chance) and Galvis (Free Agent). At the very least, I think trading Joseph needs to happen to allow the Hoskins-Williams situation to rectify and add a pitcher.

There is only room for Aschelman and two more prospects. I do not have that list. Once the 40-man roster is emptied, I'll either have a new post or edit this one, plus discuss the OD Roster Projections. I don't think we can add via F.A. or Rule 5 this year, but we don't need to if we can trade.

Over/under (a.k.a. number to beat): 83.0 for 2018... thoughts?

Go Phillies!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

UPDATED: 2nd Half Going Well, Klentak

UPDATE: The 2018 schedule has been released. Because only the Nationals (and six other NL teams) are above .500 this year, most teams have a fairly easy schedule, especially the NL East. During the first 60 games, the Phillies face teams with 2017 records near or above .500 only 17 times and 40 times total during the first 96 games, which takes us to the All-Star Break. What does this mean for the contention timeline? I discuss that below.

The Phillies were able to trade many of their free-agents-to-be, making room for Nick Williams and giving Ben Lively and others a shot. The team has been doing better with the younger guys up here - 4 games under .500 since the All-Star Break. The younger guys, except Franco, have made Phillies baseball a little more exciting. Earlier this week, GM Matt Kentak discussed the off-season plans: pitching-focused.

Analysis:

It is funny (the odd kind) that we acquired more pitchers than hitters over the last few years of trades (although we drafted ok in both departments) and it is our hitting that stands out in the majors right now.

Hoskins is NL Rookie of the Month for Aug.
Herrera hasn't lost a beat in the month he's been DL'd (hamstring), continued his 20-game hitting streak yesterday in the 11-10 loss to the Nats.
Altherr & Williams have been hitting very well too.
Galvis has played every game this season, starting all of them except yesterday. Of course, I'm a stickler for only 5-6 starts per week as opposed to 6-7, unless on a hot streak. He continues to impress with the glove but his inability to hit better is a problem. The front office thinks Crawford is a better overall player despite his struggles transitioning to AAA.
Tommy Joseph has held his own over his short career and a platoon with Hoskins is possible if Joseph is able to be traded.
Hernandez is hitting .289 w/ a .787 OPS.
Knapp has impressed when healthy.
 
In the minors, many players have impressed but one (I cannot remember his name) is susceptible to injuries.
All the pitchers up here have shown flashes of dominance but they are only flashes or at least they only just arrived this year.

Around Spring Training time, I said that we'll be good next year if we have 7 guys that can pitch in the rotation. While we kept that depth in terms of # of names (adding Tom Aschelman - the Intl League All-Star Starting pitcher), the overall quality is looking bleak, so it looks like Klentak is right: focus on pitching. We need two starters and they need to be better than the ones we've been signing - worthy of multi-year deals. A bullpen piece or two wouldn't be remiss. And I will discuss the offense here: trading Franco, Galvis, Hernandez, and/ or Joseph will serve two purposes: acquire pitching and allow at least 1-2 of the kids to roam free. As for Franco, I'm ok if he gets one more year to become the franchise 3B by hitting at least .280-.285 (like he did in 2015). The bench will undergo some changes and acquiring a bench piece or even a catcher can't hurt as long as they're not starting more than 2-3 games per week on average.

Unfortunately, what has happened this year has caused me to think about the rebuild. I analyze that it will be delayed at least a year: contend in 2019 and potential to reach World Series in 2020 as opposed to 2018 & 2019 respectively. However, that's not a bad thing and we should not be unexpected by most; it's also worth noting that the following off-season class is better than this one's. But if everything goes right, Wild Card is possible. What are those ifs? (1) The kids don't loose a beat thru the start of 2018 (easier to do facing weak teams 71.67% of the time), (2) Klentak's signings & trades this off-season work and (3) the depth at AAA continues to come up with some success (even half the success we've had this year would do). Recalling the 3 ifs rule from pre-2014, it's looking bleak. Plus, while that may look like 3 ifs, it represents about 30 players throughout the course of next year. I don't think we'll be able to beat the Nats in the NL East next year even if this scenario plays out and if Klentak's Phillies history is any indication, the second if has about a 30% chance of working out.

And my last thought about Klentak's presser is simple: he didn't address whether he'll sign quality guys and on a 2-3-year deal. I hope so. While we don't need an ace yet, we do need something slightly better that we've had. Jeremy Hellickson was consistent in 2016 and into 2017 and his mentoring of the younger guys was invaluable - Thank you, Jeremy! However, we need someone (actually two starters) in the 3.2-3.6-ERA range and I'm not sure if we can get them on 1-year deals (and we need them for slightly longer than that). And that is slightly more disappointing than the delayed rebuild but we'll have our answer soon enough. I just wanted to know.

Congrats, Rhys on your award and others on your promotions. Go Phils!!!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Trade Deadline Preview

Hello, everyone. Hope all of you are doing well. Been busy here. Still thinking about the Phillies! My thoughts right now: trade players soon, call up some from AAA. So who is going? We have four categories: (1) near-guarantee, (2) actively shopped and likely to go, (3) actively shopped and unlikely to go, (4) not actively shopped but could go.
  1. Pat Neshek, our lone representative to the All-Star Game, is a sure bet to be traded. The 'pen is still rough and will be worst without him but he can fetch us a nice prospect, probably at AA or AAA. His spot won't open up much at the bigs but perhaps create a chain reaction down to Lakewood (low A) - I'm looking at JoJo Romero in Cleawater and M Moniak, S Sanchez, A Medina, and others (esp'ly the rotation - 1.76 ERA!!!) in Lakewood.
  2. After Pat, there really is no guarantee that anyone else will be traded, so I'll stick with bullpen for a moment: J. Benoit. He's probably a category three. Could package him. His departure would be similar to Neshek's.
  3. Let's go to category two now: J Hellickson (doing well overall. Intl Leauge ASG starter Tom Eshelman called up), H Kendrick (doing well when on the roster, so there might be an Aug. waiver deal), T Joseph (doing well and we'll get to see R Hoskins)
  4. And category three: D Nava (D. Cozens called up). You could put Tommy Joseph in this category.
  5. And category four: pretty much every non-pitcher except for Williams, Knapp, Perkins & Kelly. Rupp would not go unless a better veteran is acquired. Franco is unlikely to go since we dont have anyone in the pipeline at AAA. Herrera might not go since we signed him thru his arb years which is a team-friendly deal. He, Rupp and Franco are getting better (luckier) offensively. All three hold their own defensively. Hernandez could be packaged. Galvis could be our future - his glove plays excellently here. Maybe that'll be enough to be a key bench piece - or he could also be packaged. Altherr (currently DL'd) is part of our future. Many others on the 40-man (and some on the 25-man) not really considered part of the core could be packaged, traded in August, or DFA'd (then either released or assigned to AAA). I'm looking at A Blanco & A Morgan, possibly L Garcia & B Stassi.
So who else might we see? Quinn is coming back from another injury but he should be back soon, perhaps Sept. Ben Lively & Zach Eflin could return. Leiter, too. Crawford is doing better but his difficult transitions will likely keep him in AAA until next trade deadline.

Who won't we see: Alfaro is not ready but will likely make the team next Spring primarily because of the option years situation. If he's called up, we risk loosing him if he's sent down. Kingery is doing well but just arrived at AAA and the front office doesn't want to start his option clock yet - and no protection req'd yet.

Oh, and if you're wondering, the contention timeline is slowed a bit at the beginning, IMO, but still expecting success from 2019 on. I do think adding more successful outsiders is necessary. No shame in admitting that you need more outside help as half our core during the '05-'12 ere were non-draftees: 1-2 rule 5s (Victorino, primarliy), 4+ trades (Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Lidge), & 3-4 FA's. And there are lots of players we can call up during the next few years throughout our system, most of the ones you hear about are from Lakewood and higher. Maybe our bad luck developing prospects will end.

Have a great night and happy tracking the trades.